By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
EVERETT — Everett city leaders are seeking answers about the environmental consequences of running more coal trains through town, if a proposed coal-export terminal gets built in Whatcom County.
For the next month, people have the chance to weigh in on whether Everett is asking the right questions. The city has posted a draft letter on its website. People can send in comments until Jan. 7.
“It’s not our normal process to ask for public review of our comments on a proposed project,” Everett planning director Allan Giffen said. “Normally, we’d just come up with our comments and questions and send them along.”
In this case, Mayor Ray Stephanson was honoring a request made during a Council of Neighborhoods meeting to give the public the chance to review and comment before the city finalizes its letter.
Responses will inform the questions the city asks of the federal, state and local agencies in charge of the environmental impact statement on the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal near Bellingham. The letter will be sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Ecology and Whatcom County.
A top issue for Everett is how many additional trains the new terminal would send through the city. Everett also wants to know the length of trains and the time it would take them to clear at-grade crossings.
Another question: Will new tracks and other infrastructure be necessary to support the additional coal trains?
Also, if no new terminal is built in Whatcom County, would Everett still see more coal-train traffic headed to British Columbia or elsewhere? If that happens, would the city be stuck with the impacts without the opportunity to seek a review of the impacts or remedy them?
General concerns about increasing the number of coal trains include their potential to snarl traffic, health effects from coal dust and objections to exporting a fossil fuel whose use may contribute to climate change.
Traffic in Marysville and Edmonds would likely suffer more than Everett from an increase in coal trains, since grade-level tracks run through key intersections in those cities’ downtowns. Road projects in Everett have eliminated former at-grade crossings on Pacific Avenue, Everett Avenue and 36th Street.
Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said at a forum last month that the coal terminal would add up to 18 round-trip trains per day through Marysville and would not benefit residents in the city. At the same event, Snohomish County Health District health officer Dr. Gary Goldbaum said that the environmental study should take into account ill effects from exhaust and coal dust.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; email@example.com.
Seattle meeting today
People who wish to speak at a hearing in Seattle today on the proposed Cherry Point coal terminal need to enter a random drawing.
About 150 speaking slots are planned during the meeting, scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m., at the Washington State Convention Center, 800 Convention Place, Ballroom 6F, Seattle. The drawings are to occur at the start of each hour during the three-hour public meeting.
People can enter the drawings at any time before the final drawing. The drawings replace a process at previous meetings that assigned speaking slots based on the order in which people arrived.
People also may comment online, by email or by letter. For more information, go to www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov.
How to comment
Everett: Everett Planning Department, 2930 Wetmore Ave., Suite 8A,, Everett, WA 98210, Attention: Dave Tyler; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city letter is at http://tinyurl.com/ EverettLetter.
People also are encouraged to comment directly to the agencies heading up the environmental impact statement: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Ecology and Whatcom County.
Mail: GPT/Custer Spur EIS c/o CH2M HILL,1100 112th Ave. NE Suite 400,Bellevue, WA 98004